The simple life in bloom

26th July 2022

Growing South Swindon Community have been organising fortnightly events at Cambria Bridge. The group is called Cambria Bridge Community. An enthusiastic core group are helping to further develop Cambria Bridge and the canal path. The following is a summary of the work so far:

Flower power

South Swindon Parish Council have been steadily working to improve parts of Cambria Bridge. They have taken out old playground items, installed new bins, and tidied up the green spaces by installing raised beds bordered with timber. This set the scene for the activities to follow.

Our first events for Cambria Bridge Community were to tidy some of the raised beds and plant in them. The first to be planted was the large bed between the bridge and football pitch. There was a huge amount to do in a short time, so we were grateful for the support of our voluntary group and gardeners from the Old Town Residents Association.

It was a great community effort. £400 of plants were planted and then watered. We were joined by passers by who live locally. Kids enjoying themselves. There was a lot of interest from the local community and many people stopped to thank us for our efforts.

Next up the raised bed at the other side of the football pitch. Due to its position and the quality of the soil, we decided to plant wildflowers / sow wildflower seeds. The area was raked, leaves put into the new leaf mulch bins. It was then dug over and weeded before planting. A variety of plants have now blossomed, helping pollinators and other insects.

Local food

The hugely popular canal path community garden is back. Courgettes, beans, calendula, herbs... Local organic food for free. No plastic packaging, pesticides, machines, fuel...! Simple, natural.

The fruit bushes planted last year are flourishing. The spot they were planted in was a dump quite frankly. It was full of litter, dog poo and stinging nettles. The challenge for growing in this space was the lack of sunlight as the wall behind is due south. It's been a positive transformation, and is noticeably treated with more respect.

Kids area

There is a raised bed by the kids playground. Jess Halsall was really enthused about developing this space. She drew up plans for a natural area for kids to play in. We weeded, then covered some of the soil with cardboard and bark. We did the same by a tree to provide a seating area.

We then created a mud garden. It contains second-hand toys, tools (eg trowels), and props to play with. Toys can be brought in, taken, swapped. It's a nice bit of reuse. We often find toys on litter picks which can be put here.

Next to the mud garden, there are vegetables growing next to information signs. Next to that is a bug hotel, to encourage our creepy crawly insect friends to thrive. In the mud garden, Jess picked up some pallets and cut some holes out. We then painted them and added a few props. Et voila, an amazing mud kitchen! Actually it was a lot more work than that!!

This space has been so popular. Kids are playing with and swapping toys, using their imaginations, getting a bit muddy (great for health), getting some sunshine rather than the glare of a LED screen...

We have further plans to develop Cambria Bridge, including planting herbs and a seating area. Watch this space...

South Swindon In Bloom

South Swindon Parish Council recently celebrated their 5th anniversary. I felt honoured to be asked to contribute to a video reflecting on some of their positive work. They have done and are doing great work to help transform spaces around south Swindon, making them cleaner and safer for local communities and wildlife, and restoring pride in where we live.

On the 6th July 2022. judges from Britain In Bloom were shown around some of the locations in south Swindon that are being worked on, including Cambria Bridge. It was great to be part of. The judges were impressed with the work that has gone on and the amazing communities helping to make it happen. I was moved by the day. Everyone I spoke with had a love of where they live, wanted to help make the town better and serve local communities. A beautiful, inspiring day. My thanks to everyone involved.

I keep hearing the same messages from local people about the changes at Cambria Bridge: 4 to 5 years ago, it didn't feel safe, it wasn't a nice area. Now it feels like a safe, friendly family space. Hey, there was even a little public party recently with people of all ages dancing to some drum and bass!! I know how hard people have worked to make these changes happen. Thank you to all the people who have given their time over the last few years to litter pick on a Sunday morning. Thanks to Jess Halsall and Linda Kasmaty for all your efforts. Many thanks to South Swindon Parish Council. Thanks to our community gardeners! This is a day I will never forget. Much hope from collaborative action! Be the change...